Fighting the scourges of war, poverty and the plague, the villagers of Oberammergau vowed to stage a passion play every ten years if God spared the small populace from the misery and death that swept through Europe in the seventeenth century.
Since 1634, the inhabitants of that tiny village in Germany and their descendents have kept their promise, and the Oberammergau Passion Play has been staged every decade for nearly four-hundred years.
Oberammergau is a small village along the River Ammer, approximately sixty-two miles south of Munich at the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. The area is typical of any other Bavarian village, with its quaint wooden houses bedecked with floral balconies in the summer. These alpine dwellings with exquisitely painted exteriors, have fresco carvings depicting religious scenes or fairy tales that date back to the eighteenth century. Of its five-and-a-half thousand inhabitants, many are skilled it the art of woodcarving, a tradition handed down from one generation to the next.
Some two-thousand inhabitants of Oberammergau take to performing the Passion Play every ten years within the village. The play is staged in years ending in '0', with the most recent exception being 1984, when the 350th anniversary of the Play was celebrated. With half of its population devoting over a year of their time to taking roles to bring the story of Jesus' final week on earth to life, much preparation goes into holding this event every ten years. The play consists of 102 performances. It runs from May to October this year, and begins with Jesus entering Jerusalem, running right through to his death on Calvary and his glorious resurrection. The Play starts at 2.30pm each day, ends at 10.30pm and has a three-hour interval midway through.
Oberammergau 2010 Passion Play will be directed by Christian Stuckl, director of Munich's Volkstheater. With the support of its cast, stage hands, a dramatic adviser, costume designer and musical director, Oberammergau 2010 promises to be a spectacular event.
The musical score for the Play is regarded to be largely drawn on the influence of Mozart and Haydn and entails a hint of the dreamy eloquence of the likes of Weber and Schubert. Its musical composer, Rochus Dedler, was born in Oberammergau in 1779. Dedler was highly commended as a gifted musician and originator of sacred songs. He worked as a teacher as well as a musician and composer right up to his death in 1822. Although his music has been tinkered with and adapted over the centuries, the music of the play in 2010 is still largely based on Dedler's original score. It is not known how much Dedler relied on the music incorporated in the Passion Plays prior to his own composition of circa 1800.
The musical director for 2010, Markus Zwink, had the experience of directing the score for the Passion Play in 2000. He himself is a native as well as a descendent of Oberammergau. His family roots in the village can be traced as far back as the 1700s. He has a rich musical education and has been the Head of Music in Oberammergau, since 1984.
As well as visits to Munich,Venice, Padua and Salzburg, the Pioneer Association's pilgrimage for this year takes in one of these performances at Oberammergau. We are lucky enough to have secured tickets for the play which are included in the price of the pilgrimage, and anybody wishing to take part in this once-in-a-decade experience, are advised to book their places early.
The dates of the pilgrimage to Oberammergau (including Munich, Venice, Padua and Salzburg) are from 25th August 2010 to 1st September 2009. The cost is €1,450 per person sharing. Booking forms are available from Pioneer Office, 27 Upper Sherrard Street, Dublin 1 or telephone 01 874 9464.
Depart Dublin by Aer Lingus to Munich for 3 nights, dinner, bed and breakfast.
Tour of Munich, including the Cathedral, St. Peter's Church, etc.
Visit the shrine of Blessed Rupert Meyer, SJ, staunch opponent of Nazism.
Drive to Oberammergau. Afternoon and evening attending the world-famous Passion Play. Over 2,000 participants bring the story of Jesus of Nazareth to the audience in a five-hour presentation on an open-air stage. The play covers the period of Jesus entering Jerusalem and continues to His death on the Cross and Resurrection. (Ticket for the play is included in the overall price of the pilgrimage.)
Drive over the Alps, via Innsbruck and Verona to Lido di Jesolo, and check into hotel for three night's dinner, bed and breakfast.
Relax by the beach in Lido di Jesolo for the morning. In the afternoon, drive to Padua. Visit the Basilica and tomb of St. Anthony, and the Shrine of St. Leopold Mandic.
Day in Venice to visit religious and historical sights of interest, with an optional trip on a gondola. Visit the sites associated with St. Ignatius of Loyola and the early Jesuits.
Morning drive to Salzburg to see the Great Fortress, Cathedral, Mozart Square, Mozart's birthplace and Leopoldskron Palace (The Sound Of Music). Check into hotel for one night dinner, bed and breakfast.
Morning optional visit to Eagle's Nest for the magnificent views. Afternoon drive to Munich airport for Aer Lingus flight to Dublin, arriving late evening.